Two restaurant owners in Morris, Manitoba are closing their new restaurant due to several accounts of homophobic comments. Pots N Hands will no longer be in business after Apr. 13, despite a recent outpouring of support for the homosexual owners.
A public press release from the town’s council was posted on the Morris website and explained that the owners did not intend for this to become a national news story.
“Why? Because the owners understood that although these comments and attitudes were hurtful and unnecessary, they were aware that this small minority didn’t reflect the positions and views of the Town of Morris as a whole,” read the release.
The council lamented the loss of the business in the release and explained that they recently lunched at Pots N Hands to publicly show their support for the owners and their establishment.
“People form opinions, towns do not. Towns are made up of diverse groups of people [ . . . ] Please remember that painting an entire town with the same intolerant brush is akin to the ignorance that made this front page news to begin with,” the release continued.
The Morris council members were not the only public figures to stand behind the restaurant owners.
Premier Greg Selinger recently tweeted his support by saying, “Congrats Mayor van der Linde & Morris on stand against racism and homophobic bullying. Lunch at Pots N Hands next week during flood prep.”
Despite this, some in Morris have been outspoken in their attitudes against the restaurant.
“They should get the hell out of here. I don’t really like them – the service and who they are [ . . . ] It makes you feel uncomfortable,” said Morris resident Aaron Kleinsasser to the Winnipeg Free Press.
Pots N Hands owner Dave Claringbould and his partner previously faced similar attitudes in another unnamed town and are refusing to have the same experience.
The closing was a shock to Morris Mayor Gavin van der Linde after hearing of it in a council meeting.
“I was surprised, I haven’t heard anything about any comments before that. Everyone I heard from loved the food. It was an extremely positive response,” he said to the Winnipeg Free Press.
The mayor, who also acts as a pastor in the town, later expanded on the topic to the paper by expressing his concern over what this incident could potentially do to the town of Morris.
“Something like this can destroy, instantly, what we have done (in community development).”
“There’s latent attitudes here (in rural Manitoba) because people don’t have to deal with these issues. You don’t know what your neighbour thinks. You don’t know if you’re homophobic or not until you have to deal with it,” he continued.
Support for Claringbould and his partner has come in the form of social media and letters to the Free Press.
A Facebook page entitled “Pots N Hands Restaurant Anti-Homophobia Support Group” has 1,295 members.
Steven Glaze from Regina wrote to the Free Press and said, “These are people who can’t live a free life or accept themselves. So why not tear down and destroy those openly gay individuals who can accept themselves?”
Some, however, have attributed the restaurant closing to other factors. Gary Cherewayko of Winnipeg argued in his letter to the paper that the owners should have looked towards other causes.
“You must also do your due diligence to understand the market you are going into – location, competition, etc. These towns will give you a chance but you had better be good. To blame your demise on a handful of idiots is an absolute cop-out.”
This is not the first time this year that the Town of Morris has been in the national spotlight due to controversy.
In January, 2013 the town’s newspaper, the Morris Mirror, published an editorial that compared Aboriginal peoples to terrorists during the Idle No More movements.
Similar to this most recent incident, the Morris mayor spoke out against the racist comments.
“I’m shocked and appalled that somebody can write something like that and think that it was right and acceptable to say it,” he said at the time of the editorial.
Many are connecting the closing of Pots N Hands and a recent act of vandalism in Winnipeg to lingering homophobia in the province.
A home on William Avenue was painted with the words “FAG” and “HOMO” on Mar. 31.
David Jacks of Winnipeg recently wrote to the Free Press expressing his concern of the recent events.
“These are not isolated cases. They are representative of a deep, systemic, recurring and violent form of hatred.”